That Time I Cried On Stage (and how I dealt).

crying on stage

crying on stage

The first few times I practised the story, I totally fell apart. Alone in my apartment, I couldn’t speak for sobbing.

A few months ago, I took a course with my storytelling teacher, Sage Tyrtle. Our final class was a live show, where we would each tell the story we’d been working on.

Except… I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it.



I’d chosen a story that had been too hard for me to work on before. It was about the death of my beloved Uncle B, who I lost about fifteen years ago to cancer of the pancreas.


(Side note: I HATE all the death euphemisms. Saying that “I lost” Uncle B sounds like I was just a bit careless, or maybe like pancreatic cancer and I were playing cards and I accidentally bet B on a weak hand. “Passed away” feels even more absurd to me – like I’m too scared to say “died.” But I already used “death” and don’t feel like “snuffed it” is very respectful to someone I loved so much.)


Even though it’s been a long time, B’s death was the saddest I’ve ever experienced. There was only about a year and a half between diagnosis and death, and with his big, wiry hair and thick, Turkish accent, he was one of the liveliest people I’ve ever known.

I knew I was ultimately ok. In the last 15 years, I’ve spent time grieving him and have worked through it. But, because telling a story makes your brain think it’s happening right now, it was really affecting me. I couldn’t even tell the story to myself without breaking down. And I wondered if I’d made a mistake by picking it.

I asked Sage what she would do. She told me, “Just keep practising. Eventually, you’ll push through the crying.”

So I did. Biking around Toronto in the evenings, I’d mutter to myself, half-sobbing. I kept pulling up at traffic lights next to groups of young people. I’d hang my head low. With my face soaked in tears, I’d try not to catch their eye.

I was tickled by the idea that the same person saw me more than once, and wondered if I was having a REALLY bad week.


The morning of the show, I practised the story one last time in my living room.


At the end, I had tears in my eyes but – finally! – I wasn’t incapable of speech.

That evening, I got to the theatre. It’s a small one, with about 25 people sitting, in three rows. I was last, so I tried to listen to everyone else’s stories without obsessing over mine.

Finally, Sage stands up. “Our last storyteller has a fantastic live show called True Stories Toronto. Please welcome – Marsha!”

I stood up. Took a deep breath. And began.


“Sitting on the sweaty plastic hospital chair, I looked up. In front of me, on the bed, was my Uncle B, white t-shirt hanging off him, thin neck poking out. And I remembered how, just a year and a half before, he’d been too big for it – like he’d been too big for everything…”


Seven minutes later, as I get to the last part of the story, my tears push through. I breathe and keep talking. “My brother nods, and I knew he’d gone. We hugged, then I go into the room where Uncle B was. I bend down, kiss him on the forehead, then whisper, ‘I love you, B’.”


“Thank you.”


Everyone claps. I see a few of them are in tears.

I was crying, too, but I was ok. I was ok. I sat back down and hugged Sage.


If you want to tell a sad story, first of all, make sure you know that, off stage, you’re at peace with it. Your audience must always feel safe, and they won’t feel ok if you don’t.

If you know you are, but you just can’t tell it out loud without crying, then follow Sage’s advice: practise and practise, until you can tell it to an empty room without crying.

I’m so glad that I did.


If you want to find out more about Sage Tyrtle (her INCREDIBLE in-person storytelling courses, her storytelling email tips, and her rad podcast), then you can, here:


And if you’d like to get a story like this in your email inbox every day during December, sign up – for FREE! – for my Advent(ish) Calendar of Stories, here:


Thanks so much for reading. Any thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


You rule!
xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS come and join us in the free Advent(ish) calendar of stories, and get a different one in your inbox, every day this month! Here:

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

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